This beach competes with Praia da Falésia for the title of Albufeira’s best. It’s also one of the Algarve’s most iconic and beautiful, with ocher rock formations, shallow waters and soft golden sand.
It’s about 4km (2.5 miles) from the center of Albufeira, but word of mouth has made it one of the city’s most popular. It attracts local and tourist families, and young couples, many of them guests of the hotels nearby (see list below). The parking lot and a ramp down to the sand also makes it a good beach for those with mobility issues. In the summer it can get quite crowded, but there’s always room for everyone.
Before heading down the ramp or the stairs, most people inevitably walk over the cliffs for the breathtaking views from above (it’s a great place to admire the sunset). Once they have their feet on the sand, the choice is between the area covered with parasols and sunbeds for rent (in the summer) and the free area where they can lie in the sun or under their own umbrella. Just make sure you keep some distance from the cliffs and rocks, as there can be rockfall.
When the tide is low, go around the rocks to the west (on the right side when facing the sea), and explore the small caves and grottoes.
Depending on the season, tides and currents, the sea can be rough or very calm. In the summer, it tends to have few waves, so it’s good for swimming. It’s also clean and clear (this is a Blue Flag beach), so snorkeling is possible. There are also kayak and paddleboard rentals, and lifeguard supervision in the bathing season. Sometimes there’s a massage stand for full-body massages, and there’s always the restaurant, open throughout most of the year.
Beach for: Couples, Families, Sunsets
Bar or Restaurant: Yes
How to Get to Praia de São Rafael
Bus 75 of the Vamus company departs from Albufeira’s bus station and stops by this beach in about 15 minutes. However, there are just about half a dozen departures per day, so you should rent a car. The 4km drive from central Albufeira takes 10 minutes. There’s parking by the beach, but you have to arrive early or you won’t find a spot. Alternatively, take a taxi or Uber. If you’re driving from elsewhere in Algarve, take highway A22 and exit to Albufeira. From the center of town, head west on road M526 towards the beach.
Beaches by Praia de São Rafael
Less than 10 minutes by car to the west are Praia do Ninho de Andorinha and Praia da Coelha, while 5 minutes to the east is the beautiful Praia dos Arrifes (which is also within walking distance).
To locate these beaches, see the Albufeira beaches map.
Hotels by Praia de São Rafael
São Rafael Atlântico
Located up the road and with direct private access to the beach, this large hotel features three outdoor pools surrounded by palm trees, two heated indoor pools, a spa, and a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine. All rooms have terraces, and some offer sea views.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: São Rafael Atlântico
São Rafael Suites - All Inclusive
With suites and rooms accommodating as many as 6 people, this hotel caters to families. It overlooks the beach, which is a 10-minute walk away. There are two restaurants and three swimming pools, plus a spa and a kids’ club.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: São Rafael Suites - All Inclusive
São Rafael Holidays
This property is about an 8-minute walk from the beach. It consists of standard double rooms, apartments, and villas. Guests have access to an outdoor swimming pool, and one of the villas and one of the studios have their own private pools.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: São Rafael Holidays